Established in Jerusalem in 1906, the Bezalel School is considered one of Israel’s prestigious academic institutions for the study of Art, Architecture, and Design.
Recently it has encouraged the popularity of “Sadaa”, a student-led movement producing artwork promoting anti-Israel extremism and glorifying terrorism. Earlier this month, Saada’s founder, Lubna A-Sane, the daughter of former Knesset member, Taleb A-Sane, was awarded the Keren Azrieli prize in architecture. After having received this accolade, earlier this January, Lubna’s movement, Saada, received widespread support within Bezalel, and coverage in local news.
Lubna’s father, Taleb A-Sane, is an anti-Zionist, Bedouin Israeli politician, and lawyer, who served as a member of Knesset for 20 consecutive years on behalf of the Ra’am Ta’al party. Throughout his two-decade-long career, A-Sane has been the subject of numerous controversies.
In August 2001, in an interview with Abu Dhabi television, two months after the terrorist attack at the Dolphinarium discotheque on the beachfront in Tel Aviv, in which 21 Israeli civilians were killed, A-Sane said:
“This is an operation of a special quality, because it was not intended against civilians but against soldiers in the heart of the State of Israel. The Israelis need to understand that if there is no security for the Palestinians, there will be no security either.” To the Israelis. Just like they come to Nablus, that’s how the Palestinians come to Tel Aviv.”
In 2005, while serving as a member of Knesset, A-Sane visited Syria and met with various heads of the regime including the Secretary-General & founder of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Nayef Hawatama, who was responsible for the Ma’alot Massacre in which 24 children were killed. Shortly after his visit, a criminal investigation was opened against A-Sane as he had visited an enemy country of the state of which he was an acting legislative representative, which was in violation of the law.
On May 15th, 2008, A-Sane took part in commemorating “Nakba Day”, where Palestinian leaders lament the establishment of the State of Israel, and wrongly attribute the Palestinian refugee crisis to Israel, instead of the five Arab armies that attempted to destroy the fledgling Jewish state. During the ceremony, A-Sane actively participated and declared “Zionism violent and racist”.
In April 2011, while lecturing at the Arab American University in Jenin, A-Sane accused the State of Israel of “enacting laws like that of Nazi Germany”. In the same interview, A-Sane also claimed that “Israel established special cities for Jews like the cities that were created in South Africa for white citizens during apartheid”. In 2020, when being interviewed on Radio Galei Israel A-Sane stated that “harm against Israeli soldiers is a part of a struggle against the occupation army.”
In the case of Taleb and his daughter Lubna, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The Saada movement was established with the aim to promote “Palestinian Identity” among minority students at the Art School. But the movement instead promotes violence and animosity between Arab and Jewish students with artwork depicting crude and unmistakable antisemitism.
One of the most blatant “Saada” artistic works was made popular during Operation of the Guarding of the Walls, showing “methods of Palestinian popular resistance” with depictions of a presentation of an attack with Molotov cocktails on the IDF force, throwing stones using rockets, rolling burning tires, removing or diverting direction signs on the roads to confuse the security forces, arson and many more means of violent resistance. The illustrations were posted on Saada’s Facebook page and were originally from a cartoon booklet published after the first intifada. The brochure’s title was “methods of the Palestinian popular resistance.” Written next to photos detailing severe actions against the security forces, the movement added the caption: “We wish our great men steadfastness and strength until victory.”
Below are pictures of these illustrations mentioned above:
Additionally, during the first eight months of 2021, when there was escalating violence in Sheikh Jarrah, Saada held a joint conference (Zoom) with the “Samidoun” organization from Germany. The conference was titled “Art and Resistance” and it dealt with ways to create and consolidate art for the Palestinian struggle. A mere two weeks later, this German organization, which supports terrorists in Israeli prisons, was declared by the then Minister of Defense – Benny Gantz, as a terrorist organization linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Such provocations of violence and bigotry through art cannot be tolerated, Saada is openly glorifying terrorism, but the problems at Bezalel run deeper as faculty have also promoted anti-Zionist propaganda.
In January 2023, Tamar Berger, a senior lecturer in the Dept of Architecture issued an email with her colleagues addressed to students, declaring their sympathy and understanding of the “Palestinian struggle against Israeli police brutality and violent settlers”. Berger wrote with support from some of her associates, that they “understand the difficulty in learning in institutions run by the Israeli occupation”, and that they hope that through the contribution of higher education, social and political opinions can be transformed for the better.” Berger stresses that she and her colleagues will “assist students to the best of their ability who struggle learning during the ongoing circumstances of occupation and call for professors to join the call in supporting the Palestinian cause”.
Pictured below is the email (in Hebrew) that was composed by Berger and sent to a group of students:
The letter is riddled with falsehoods. Regarding Sheikh Jarrah– what is misunderstood by many, the custodial rights within the area are a civil dispute regarding the payment of rent, no evidence proving the properties belong to anyone else has been presented. Concerning the Temple Mount- during Operation Guarding of the Walls and the days that followed, Israeli security had to respond to violent Palestinian protests that put the lives of everyone at risk. Put aptly, Israel was taking defensive measures, not targeting Palestinians as the letter falsely claims.
Bezalel Art School should not be platforming student groups like Sadaa, and allowing faculty, in the name of the academic institution, to glorify terrorism and promote a narrative misrepresenting the Arab-Israeli conflict. Administrators at Bezalel must take action to ensure that the school does not allow hatred and bigotry to drown out true academic discourse and collaboration between Jewish and Arab students.
A slightly edited version of this article also appeared in the Algemeiner.